methodology and method

It’s Friday night and I’m reading the wikipedia page about methodology. I know I know – Friday! Wikipedia! #desperatetimes

I’m reading this because I’ve had a lot of conversations recently (with colleagues and students) about methods and methodology in practice-as-research.

Two statements on the wiki page catch my attention:

The methodology is the general research strategy that outlines the way in which research is to be undertaken and, among other things, identifies the methods to be used in it.

Methodology and method are not interchangeable. In recent years however, there has been a tendency to use methodology as a “pretentious substitute for the word method”.

And here’s a great little summary from Aotearoa of the distinction between method and methodology in relation to decolonisation methodologies: http://whanauoraresearch.co.nz/news/method-or-methodology-whats-the-difference.

Practice-as-research finds itself at an interesting moment in its development. I feel confident as an artist-scholar that when I write a practice-as-research methodological statement (say, for a proposal) I am calling on a set of methodological principles, and a particular history. I understand such a position statement to be a critical framework that makes sense of why a practice-as-research methodology is most appropriate for that particular research. In other words, it is a methodological rationale. This means I do not have to defend practice-as-research methodologically (that work has already been done), but I do have to make a clear methodological case for the specific project I am proposing or doing.

However, methodology is not the same as method and it is certainly not the same as creative process.

The research methods that I work with in practice-as-research often overlap heavily with creative processes. These might include group devising, task-based development of ideas, workshopping, improvisation, video editing, etc. They are the basic tools (or methods) with which I do the research.

I would argue that under most circumstances there is little that is exceptional or unusual about these research methods/creative processes. The trap in practice-as-research (particularly at PhD level) is to provide a blow-by-blow description of research methods/tools/creative processes as if they are special. There are (rare) circumstances in which creative processes are unique and might make an important contribution to, for instance, our understanding of choreographic, film or theatre-making processes. In such (rare) cases, then it would be important to provide access to these processes for the reader/viewer. They could watch rehearsals (or documentation of rehearsals), read reflections on the processes, etc.

For practice-as-research PhDs I’d suggest that in most situations students could write a methodological rationale (to help the reader understand why their research questions are best addressed by this approach) – maybe 3–4k words, but even as few as 2k? – that would include a brief outline of the methods/tools/processes used. The exception would be in cases in which the methods/processes are the object of the research investigation. That is, in which there is something special about these processes that demands attention and that would potentially contribute to how we understand artistic processes.

Any thoughts?

barthes and method

Some people speak of method greedily, demandingly; what they want in work is method; to them it never seems rigorous enough, formal enough. Method becomes a Law …. The invariable fact is that a work which constantly proclaims its will-to-method is ultimately sterile: everything has been put into the method, nothing remains for the writing; the researcher insists that his text will be methodological, but this text never comes: no surer way to kill a piece of research and send it to join the great scrap heap of abandoned projects than Method.

– Roland Barthes The Rustle of Language, 1986, p.318

transmission interruption: hard drives fail

Hard drives fail.
They do.
This of course has nothing to do with practice-as-research but I’ve heard so many cases recently of people working in the academy who have lost hours, days, even weeks of work simply because they have the (very mistaken) belief that hard drives are infallible.
The worst thing about hard drive failure is that often you get no indication that it’s happening. One moment all is good, the next all is not good.
There is nothing you can really do to stop hard drives failing.
But, you can have a simple backup system that builds in redundancy in case of theft, fire, digital fuck-ups, document corruption[1] or of course hard drive failure.
Here are some backup basics courtesy of the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/technology/personaltech/data-backup-guide.html

Other thoughts/ideas:
– make a copy of the main document (or documents) you are working on (e.g. PhD thesis) every day and then archive the old version (which will get backed up using your awesome automated backup system), give the new version today’s date and get started
– use automated backup (e.g. Time Machine on Mac OS)
– use cloud based syncing software (e.g. Dropbox) as a fall-back backup system. Services like Dropbox are really for syncing, not backup
– use at least two external hard drives for different backups (i.e. external hard drives fail as well!)
– it will happen to you (some day)

Normal practice-as-research service will resume next week.


  1. Documents get corrupted all the time, but my experience is that it is more likely the more complex (and more precious) the document is (e.g. PhD thesis)!  ↩

traces of practice

I led a workshop with C-DaRE PhD students the other day and we looked at ideas and questions to do with documentation in practice-as-research projects. One of the things that we didn’t get to was a solo activity about the traces of practice. Here it is:

Task

Collect an (exhaustive) list of the various traces or parts of your research to date. These might be images, conversations, writings, scribbles, notes, images, videos, formal writing, audio recordings …

Reflection and questions

  • what are the traces of your practice(s)?
  • how might they be organised? (un/obvious)
  • what kinds of relationships exist between them?
  • what ideas might they be serving other than your practice?
  • what kinds of writing might make sense of and/or with these traces?
  • how might they help to change or evolve your practice?
  • what is missing?
  • what are others doing that you might steal?
  • what is un/necessary?
  • what is most/least clear?
  • who else has handled, organised, or developed similar traces?
  • what becomes available to you?
  • how do the other traces function? What if they are not other? How might a singular proposition, work, or iteration emerge from your practice?
  • how might you understand or rethink loss, gain, documentation, liveness, and originality in relation to your traces?

making the news and advocacy

On 5 March 2017 Times Higher Education published a brief article [1] about whether or not a film can be research.

It’s rehashes two old issues in practice-as-research:

  • can artistic work present (or be) an argument? (when I would think a more interesting question is should it?)
  • what are the possibilities and limitations of peer review in practice-as-research submissions?

I was frustrated at just how little we have come since the heady days of PARIP, but the article was also a useful reminder that much important work remains to be done in advocating practice-as-research at the level of HE management, in policy, and (perhaps most importantly) how its value (particularly in relation to epistemology) might be communicated outside of its bubble.

Interesting to see the Journal of Embodied Research getting a plug when it hasn’t yet published its first volume. Screenworks (that was initially distributed through The Journal of Media Practice) has been cracking on since 2006, and to a lesser extent the International Journal of Screendance (which I co-edit with Harmony Bench) are current platforms for publishing moving-image-as-research.

I particularly like the use of quote marks around the word “published” in the last sentence.

Any thoughts?


  1. Here is a PDF version of the article: film-as-research

visibility and askance

Visibility within practice-based research can expose and question visual hierarchies, authority, authorship, the politics of technology, balances of power and representation or prompt dissent. … The concept of visibility generates a dual arrangement: of what can be seen operating with what cannot be seen.

Askance?Oblique Conference 2017, 31 March 2017 at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

https://visibilityconference.carbonmade.com/projects/6327184

This is part of a call for proposals (with due date 20 February 2017).

international symposium on par

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts is hosting a symposium on practice-as-research 4-6 December 2017.

It aims to bring together thinkers, practitioners, researchers and leaders to discuss and explore Practice as Research in an environment that mirrors Hong Kong itself, a confluence of the east and west, each with its rich cultural traditions and artistic practices.

The symposium overview, including call for proposals is at http://ispar.hkapa.edu.

 

call for submissions – jar

I can’t find any direct link to this call for submissions for the Journal for Artistic Research, but here are some basic details.

Call for Submissions: JAR Issue 14 – Autumn 2017

The deadline for consideration is 17 March 2017

To be considered for Peer Review, the editorial board considers:

1. Whether the exposition exposes artistic practice as research. This goes beyond simply documenting, describing, or writing about work. It engages with questions and claims about knowledge within practice. For a detailed articulation of this please read the editorial to JAR0.
2. The degree to which the exposition is conceptually and artistically strong, considered, and significant to the field.
3. Whether the multimedia and design capacities of the RC have been used effectively and meaningfully to support the argument or understanding of the research.

To submit an article, contributors are required to register for an account on the RC and use the online writing space to layout and expose their research. JAR provides editorial and technical guidance with these processes.

For our guidelines on submissions visit:
http://www.jar-online.net/index.php/pages/view/123

For submissions information, and advice on whether your research is suitable for JAR, contact the Managing Editor, Phoebe Stubbs, at submissions@jar-online.net